With Super Bowl LIII now over, the start of the NFL offseason is officially here. For the 49ers – who plummeted to 4-12 in 2018 – that means a restructuring of the roster to bring more firepower on offense and defense for 2019.
Will that mean the Niners will bring in some veteran stars as free agents? Of course.
Will wide receiver Antonio Brown be among them? That’s to be determined.
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Brown is on the outs with his team, feuding with head coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and has asked for a trade.
On social media, Brown has dropped hints he’d like to come west to join the 49ers, and 49ers Hall of Fame wideout Jerry Rice has said Brown – added to the San Francisco offense – would take it to “a whole different level.”
Now, Dan Graziano of ESPN has predicted Brown could indeed wind up in Santa Clara, catching passes from Jimmy Garoppolo instead of Roethlisberger.
In Graziano’s 10 projections for 2019, he predicts Brown will not only come to the 49ers, but help them get to the playoffs this coming season. Graziano believes with a solid draft and some key free agents, San Francisco will be “in position to make some noise.”
As for Brown, he writes: “The odds strongly favor Pittsburgh trading Brown this offseason. Releasing him would allow a conference rival like Baltimore or New England to get him, and that’s not in the Steelers’ interests at all. So shipping him off to an NFC West team makes more sense.
“San Francisco has the cap space to give Brown a new contract if he wants one, and there’s no doubt Brown knows all about what Julio Jones did in Atlanta two years ago as the No. 1 wide receiver in a Kyle Shanahan offense.”
Brown is due to count $22 million vs. the salary cap in 2019 and more than $18 million in 2020, so he’d be a huge investment.
Brown, however, is a four-time All-Pro first-team pick with six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons who led the NFL with 15 touchdown catches in 2018, when he caught 104 passes. He has six straight years of 100 or more catches. In 2017, he averaged 109.5 yards receiving per game.